Congress preps 1-week stopgap bill as lawmakers announce progress toward full-year funding deal
Agencies face a Friday night shutdown threat, though lawmakers are looking to punt that to just before Christmas.
Congress will vote this week on a seven-day stopgap funding bill to avoid a shutdown Friday evening and buy negotiators more time to reach a deal on full-year appropriations.
Top lawmakers voiced optimism on Monday for the first time in weeks as they inched toward an agreement on setting line-by-line funding levels across government. The current continuing resolution is set to expire late Friday, while the new measure would push that back by one week and set the new deadline just two days before Christmas.
“Over the weekend, appropriators held positive and productive conversations, enough that both sides are moving forward in good faith to reach a deal,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday afternoon. He advised his colleagues to prepare to take "quick action" on a one-week CR "so we can give appropriators more time to finish a full funding bill before the holidays."
Democrats had previously suggested they would vote on an omnibus bill they wrote without direct Republican input, but decided to set aside those plans after making progress on bipartisan negotiations. They had also threatened to bring up a full-year CR, which Republicans objected to because the flat funding levels would have denied the Pentagon an increase.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Republicans would only agree to a non-defense spending increase equal to the one proposed in President Biden’s budget. In his fiscal 2023 blueprint, Biden requested an increase of $56.3 billion, or 9.5%. That figure did not include a boost for health care funding at the Veterans Affairs department, which Democrats have suggested putting in a separate budget category for the first time.
"We're trading serious suggestions back and forth," said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., who serves as ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee. "The main thing is, fund the government. Don't shut it down."
Before the recent advancements in the weekend talks, Republicans had said they were seeking to cut the latest Democratic proposal by $25 billion. Appropriators have yet to settle on the top-line funding level and the breakdown for defense and domestic spending that is necessary before they can write an omnibus. The Senate this week is expected to pass the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which would set defense spending for the fiscal year at nearly $858 billion, an increase of 10%. Democrats have pushed for an equal increase for non-Defense spending, but Republicans have called that a non-starter, citing the major spending the majority has passed through the reconciliation process.
“If my House and Senate Democratic colleagues can accept these realities in the near future, we may still have a shot at a full-year funding bill,” McConnell said.
Otherwise, he suggested the only path forward would be another CR into early next year. Many conservative Republicans have pushed for that approach, saying their party would have more leverage after it takes control of the House. Shelby declined to say how far divided he and Democrats remain.
Still, lawmakers on both sides echoed the newfound optimism.
"Appropriators on both sides of the aisle understand the damage that a continuing resolution would do," Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, who sits on the Appropriations Committee said. "We've come this far, we're not actually far apart in terms of dollar amount. And so I think we can we can land this airplane."